Of course, I realize I'm spoiling the end of the story before I've even told it, but when there's good news to share, it's tough to keep in–especially since there's so few environmental happy endings these days. Here's a brief story from the Salem News' Marc Fortier about the culmination of the Wenham Lake Cleanup. Extreme kudos to the thoughtful citizens of Wenham Lake Watershed Association for their diligence and action. Because of your perseverence, not only the 80,000 citizens of Salem and Beverly will be drinking from their tap with greater confidence, but the health of the community for generations to come will be better for it.
BEVERLY — The cleanup of the Vitale site and the stream known as Airport Brook is almost complete, and the removal of fly ash from Wenham Lake is expected to begin next month.
"We have moved to the east of Route 97," said Mike Lotti, the project manager for New England Power. "Right now, we are marching down toward the lake."
Here's a bit of the backstory, to which I hope to return on these pages.
The 18-acre Vitale site was once used as a dumping ground for fly ash, an arsenic-laced powder produced in the 1950s and 1960s as a byproduct of the Salem power plant. Over the last five decades, the ash washed into Wenham Lake, which supplies drinking water to Salem and Beverly. Environmentalists fought for years to get New England Power, which once ran the power plant, to clean up the lake.
New England Power will collect the fly ash from the lake and the surrounding area and haul it back to the Vitale site, where it will be capped. Long-term plans call for the construction of playing fields atop the site.
Barring any real bad weather, Lotti said the goal is to finish construction by mid-December. Even then, the company would have to return in the spring to do some wetlands restoration work.
"It's going very well," Lotti said. "If I had to guess a year ago if it would go this well I would have said no, it wouldn't."
Most of the complaints about the project, he said, have centered around a culvert that was installed under Route 97. The road in that area is rather bumpy, he said, but it will be repaired when the project is finished.
New England Power held an open house on Sept. 17 to give the community a chance to see what has been accomplished so far. Lotti said around 20 to 30 people attended.
"It looks really good right now," he said. "People were very impressed, I think, with what they saw. People didn't realize how big this project was going to be when it started."
Lotti said the company plans to hold one last open house in late November or early December, before the project is finished.